Otago University has launched a broad cost-cutting review covering all of its 2000 non-academic support staff.
The 146-year-old university has been struggling with flat funding and falling student numbers for the past five years.
The review - its most wide-ranging in years - covers departmental administrators, library staff and technicians among others.
They have been told the university has 19 percent more general staff than other Australasian universities to which it has compared itself.
However, Otago said it had no set target for the cuts, and announcements of any job losses and restructuring were not likely for at least a year.
Tertiary Education Union organiser Shaun Scott said its members were anxious about what might happen.
"Any cuts have a significant impact on the quality that is able to be delivered by the university in terms of researching, teaching and student support - general staff have a crucial role in all of those functions, all areas where the university has to date been quite successful, so tampering with that in any way could potentially put some of that success at risk."
Mr Scott said the university had not given any target for how many staff are to go.